Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith" that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle "need to be realistic" that President Donald Trump will not attempt to attract violent demonstrators in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration to discourage.
"This president won't do that," said Panetta, who served as secretary of defense under President Barack Obama from July 2011 to February 2013. "It is not in his nature to do something that is important to the country. He thinks of himself. That will continue to consume him."
At the Save America rally on January 6, Trump told thousands of spectators on Capitol Hill that "we will never admit" and added strength to his supporters. Minutes later, a crowd of his supporters stormed Congress and terrorized it. Trump has since taken no responsibility for the deadly uprising and has defended his speech.
"People found what I was saying perfectly appropriate," Trump told a group of reporters on Tuesday.
Trump's comments come at a time of heightened alertness to violence in the US after the FBI warned of possible armed protests. In a Tuesday evening interview on The News with Shepard Smith, Michael Chertoff, who served as Secretary of State for Homeland Security during the Bush administration, said there was a "real threat" to hostility in the country's state capitals.
"I'm very worried about the next few weeks," said Chertoff. "I think that next week will be a moment when these groups feel encouraged to go into chaos and attack not only the Capitol but other locations as well." . "
A state of emergency was declared in Richmond, Virginia because authorities described the protests prior to Inauguration Day on January 20 as a "credible threat." Virginia Capitol Police announced they were increasing security.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers activated his state's National Guard to protect the state's Capitol and boarded up windows on the building's ground floor. Michigan's Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted, "The Michigan Capitol is not safe." Chertoff said he doesn't expect the threats to stop after inauguration day.
"We could have active shooters, we could have pipe bombs, but honestly I think this will continue after January 20th," said Chertoff. "I think these groups were brought up to believe that this is their moment."
Panetta told host Shepard Smith that Trump must be "punished" last Wednesday for "instigating this uprising". Trump is charged with rioting and House Democrats plan to vote Tuesday to demand that Vice President Mike Pence use the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office. Panetta said if Pence fails to implement the 25th Amendment, there will be no option but to impeach.
"That is the bottom line, we cannot ignore what happened last Wednesday and we must send a clear message to this president and future president that such behavior will never be tolerated in our country," said Panetta.